PMQs: …well what do you think?

A red-faced and relatively subdued PMQs today all round.

Cameron performed with some sincerity, suggesting that people would not accept paybacks in the short term and rule changes in the long term – political leadership was required to effect immediate changes to the rules. No-one doubted that the rules were inadequate. Unusually, however, I think Brown had the logical upperhand on this one. It is precisely because MPs have proven themselves not capable of keeping to the spirit of the rules that they have forgone any right to effect arbitrary changes to the expenses system. It’s not populist, but it’s true, that rule changes per se need to be independent. In the meantime, individuals should shift for themselves.

Cameron also made points about the Communications Allowance and the number of MPs in the house, which I am sure will be returned to.

Nick Clegg over both his questions played a similar line to Cameron – going for the simple moral against Brown’s technocratic pontification. The biggest problem with the current expense system was the one no-one had yet proposed a solution to – that MPs made capital profits on their properties funded by the taxpayer.

He asserted that “we on these benches” would make a personal commitment (one which Steve Webb made on his blog the other day) to hand back any capital profits from the sale of flats bought with the taxpayer’s help back proportionately to the taxpayer. He suggested that others might like to make a similar commitment. Brown did not (of course) undertake any such thing, but did recognise Clegg’s “strong feelings” on the subject and suggested he put his proposals to the Kelly committee.

Could it be that some tiny grain of good is going to emerge from this whole sorry mess? When Clegg put his original proposals to Cameron and Brown in their private meeting a few weeks ago¬† – rental payments and bills only at the taxpayers’ expense – they were rejected by both other leaders.

His revised proposals allowed for purchase at taxpayer’s expense, but only if the taxpayer received an interest in the capital worth of the property commensurate with the proportion of the interest they paid on it. This surely has to be an unimpeachable suggestion that the Kelly committee will take on board and incorporate into their recommendations.

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4 Comments

  • Cameron has lost the context of this debate and has reduced himself to popularism, the Labour MP’s were quite right to heckle ‘but your a millionaire’, in all this mess we have to avoid making politics the preserve of the rich….

  • tykejohnno,

    I did not ‘attack his wealth’ but I did make a point that it makes it considerably easier him to take a wild and reckless hacksaw to expenses without feeling any personal consequences and when the shakedown comes we do have to maintain a system where entering politics is not just for the already wealthy do we not?

    It’s called ‘opportunity for all’…and is actually a cornerstone of a *representative* democracy…

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